Addis mayor leaving to take on the world

There are still parts of the world Mayor Carroll Bourgeois wants to see, so the 69-year-old with five children and 11 grandchildren said he’s walking away from City Hall and heading into a leisurely retirement after serving as Addis mayor for 32 consecutive years.

“When I told my kids I wasn’t going to seek a ninth term, my daughter looked at me and said, ‘We’ll finally get our father back,’” Bourgeois said in his office at City Hall less than two weeks before he officially leaves office.

“I never aspired to be in politics. I never called myself a politician. Politicians do some funny things. I did it to pay back the people in this community for being so welcoming to my wife and I when we first moved here.”

Bourgeois said he and his wife, Carolyn, moved from Lake Charles to Addis when he was 21 years old to start a new job at Entergy.

Bourgeois retired the first time in 1999. He had been employed at the Copolymer plant in Addis, where he worked as a safety environmental manager.

“The people here really made us feel at home; something about this community had a very hometown feel,” Bourgeois said. “I coached youth sports for awhile and then thought the next step was to get involved with the community. People began encouraging me to run for mayor and after two tries, I got elected.”

Bourgeois was first elected mayor of Addis in 1980, he said.

During his tenure as the town’s top elected official, Bourgeois has had a front-row seat while Addis grew from a village to a town.

In another 15 years or so, Bourgeois said, he is convinced Addis will be a city with a population of at least 10,000 people.

According to the U.S. census, 3,593 people resided in Addis as of 2010.

The town’s population has to reach 5,000 mark before Addis can qualify as a city.

Bourgeois’ position as mayor went from part-time to full-time in 2008 because of the town’s growth.

When he was first elected mayor of Addis, Bourgeois recalled, the town government had two part-time employees. Addis now provides full-time jobs to about 30 town employees, he said.

Bourgeois attributes Addis’ steady growth to West Baton Rouge Parish’s “stellar” school system, federally funded upgrades to Addis’ sewer system — which he said attracted much of the new development — and the town’s sense of community.

“We really tried to maintain the hometown feel that the town had when I got here,” he said. “I’ve always felt the closer you are to people, the better you are.”

Mayor-elect David Toups, 47, will take office Tuesday. Toups, who has been serving as mayor pro tem, was elected without opposition Nov. 6. Toups has been a member of the Town Council since 2004.

“I told him I’m not going to stick my nose in his business,” Bourgeois quipped when asked about his successor.

“He really left the town in great shape,” Toups said of Bourgeois. “But I do feel like I have some big shoes to fill. I’m now eager to get into office and start working on some projects I hold dear to my heart, like improving streets and drainage.”

Toups said he plans to carry on with Bourgeois’ recent efforts to change the way sales tax revenues dedicated to fire protection are distributed among the parish’s six fire subdistricts.

For several years, Bourgeois and Brusly Mayor Joey Normand have been pushing parish officials to change the 1991 law that controls distribution of more than $2 million annually in sales tax revenue among parish fire districts.

Bourgeois and Normand have argued that Addis and Brusly should be getting a larger share of the money for their fire districts, based on population growth.

Normand recently announced that he intends to lobby lawmakers during the upcoming session of the state Legislature to get the law changed.

“We’ll be picking up the ball with (Normand) after the first of the year,” Toups said. “I’m on board with whatever they want to do.”

Bourgeois said he is so dedicated to getting the law changed, he’s decided to come out of retirement if need be.

“If I have to testify before the Legislature I will,” Bourgeois said. But until he gets the call, Bourgeois added, he’ll be watching his grandchildren play sports.